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Jaime Gil-Cabrera, Pedro L. Valenzuela, Lidia B. Alejo, Eduardo Talavera, Almudena Montalvo-Pérez, Alejandro Lucia, and David Barranco-Gil

Purpose: To compare the effectiveness of optimum power load training (OPT, training with an individualized load and repetitions that maximize power output) and traditional resistance training (TRT, same number of repetitions and relative load for all individuals) in professional cyclists. Methods: Participants (19 [1] y, peak oxygen uptake 75.5 [6] mL/kg/min) were randomly assigned to 8 weeks (2 sessions per week) of TRT (n = 11) or OPT (n = 9), during which they maintained their usual cycle training schedule. Training loads were continuously registered, and measures of muscle strength/power (1-repetition maximum and maximum mean propulsive power on the squat, hip thrust, and lunge exercises), body composition (assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), and endurance performance (assessed on both an incremental test and an 8-min time trial) were collected before and at the end of the intervention. Results: OPT resulted in a lower average intensity (percentage of 1-repetition maximum) during resistance training sessions for all exercises (P < .01), but no differences were found for overall training loads during resistance or cycling sessions (P > .05). Both programs led to significant improvements in all strength/power-related parameters, muscle mass (with no changes in total body mass but a decreased fat mass), and time-trial performance (all Ps < .05). A trend toward increased power output at the respiratory compensation point was also found (P = .056 and .066 for TRT and OPT, respectively). No between-groups differences were noted for any outcome (P > .05). Conclusion: The addition of either TRT or OPT to an endurance training regimen of elite cyclists results in similar improvements of body composition, muscle strength/power, and endurance performance.

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Xabier Muriel, Pedro L. Valenzuela, Manuel Mateo-March, Jesús G. Pallarés, Alejandro Lucia, and David Barranco-Gil

Purpose: To compare the physical demands and performance indicators of male professional cyclists of 2 different categories (Union Cycliste Internationale WorldTour [WT] and ProTeam [PT]) during a cycling grand tour. Methods: A WT team (n = 8, 31.4 [5.4] y) and a PT team (n = 7, 26.9 [3.3] y) that completed “La Vuelta 2020” volunteered to participate. Participants’ power output (PO) was registered, and measures of physical demand and physiological performance (kilojoules spent, training stress score, time spent at different PO bands/zones, and mean maximal PO [MMP] for different exertion durations) were computed. Results: WT achieved a higher final individual position than PT (31 [interquartile range = 33] vs 71 [59], P = .004). WT cyclists showed higher mean PO and kilojoule values than their PT peers and spent more time at high-intensity PO values (>5.25 W·kg−1) and zones (91%–120% of individualized functional threshold power) (Ps < .05). Although no differences were found for MMP values in the overall analysis (P > .05), subanalyses revealed that the between-groups gap increased through the race, with WT cyclists reaching higher MMP values for ≥5-minute efforts in the second and third weeks (Ps < .05). Conclusions: Despite the multifactorial nature of cycling performance, WT cyclists spend more time at high intensities and show higher kilojoules and mean PO than their PT referents during a grand tour. Although the highest MMP values attained during the whole race might not differentiate between WT and PT cyclists, the former achieve higher MMP values as the race progresses.

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Pedro L. Valenzuela, Manuel Mateo-March, Mikel Zabala, Xabier Muriel, Alejandro Lucia, David Barranco-Gil, and Jesús G. Pallarés

Purpose: Ambient temperature affects endurance exercise performance. However, most research has been conducted in a laboratory-based setting, and whether there are sex-specific trends remains unclear. The present study aimed to analyze the influence of ambient temperature on cycling performance in male and female professional cyclists using field-based data collected during both training and racing. Methods: A total of 74 cyclists (48 male and 26 female; age 29 [5] y, 8 [5] y of experience in the professional category) were included in the analyses. We registered the participants’ record power profile using data from both training and competitions over 8 years (2013–2020; 8 [5] seasons per cyclist). We analyzed their mean maximal power (MMP) values attained for efforts lasting 5 seconds, 30 seconds, 5 minutes, and 20 minutes at ambient temperatures ranging from <5°C to >35°C. Results: A significant influence of ambient temperature on MMP values was found in male and female cyclists (P < .001 for both), with no significant differences between sexes (P = .512). Cyclists attained the highest MMP values at temperate conditions (10–30°C in males and 5–25°C in females), whereas an impairment in performance was found at colder and hotter temperatures, particularly for the more extreme conditions (performance impairment at <5°C and >35°C of −18% to −9% and −16% to −9%, respectively). Conclusions: Ambient temperature influences field-based cycling performance, following a reverse U-shaped relationship, with the highest MMP values attained in the range of ∼10°C to 25°C and with no major differences between sexes.

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Jesús G. Pallares, Alejandro Hernández-Belmonte, Pedro L. Valenzuela, Xabier Muriel, Manuel Mateo-March, David Barranco-Gil, and Alejandro Lucia

Purpose: To determine the validity of field-derived mean maximum power (MMP) values for monitoring maximal cycling endurance performance. Methods: Twenty-seven male professional cyclists performed 3 timed trials (TTs) of 1-, 5-, and 20-minute duration that were used as the gold standard reference. Field-based power output data (3336 files; 124 [25] per cyclist) were registered during the preparatory (60 d pre-TT, including training data only) and specific period of the season (60 d post-TT, including both training and competitions). Comparisons were made between TT performance (mean power output) and MMP values obtained for efforts of the same duration as TT (MMP of 1-, 5-, and 20-min duration). The authors also compared TT- and MMP-derived values of critical power (CP) and anaerobic work capacity. Results: A large correlation (P < .001, r > .65) was found between MMP and TT performance regardless of the effort duration or season period. However, considerable differences (P < .05, standard error of measurement [SEM]  > 5%) were found between MMP and TT values for all effort durations in the preparatory period, as well as for the derived CP and anaerobic work capacity. Significant differences were also found between MMP and TT of 1 minute in the specific period, as well as for anaerobic work capacity, yet with no differences for MMP of 5- and 20-minute duration or the derived CP (P > .05, SEM < 5%). Conclusion: MMP values (for efforts ≥5 min) and the associated CP obtained from both training sessions and competitions can be considered overall accurate indicators of the cyclist’s maximal capabilities, but specific tests might be necessary for shorter efforts or when considering training sessions only.

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David Barranco-Gil, Lidia B. Alejo, Pedro L. Valenzuela, Jaime Gil-Cabrera, Almudena Montalvo-Pérez, Eduardo Talavera, Susana Moral-González, Vicente J. Clemente-Suárez, and Alejandro Lucia

Purpose: To analyze the effects of different warm-up protocols on endurance-cycling performance from an integrative perspective (by assessing perceptual, neuromuscular, physiological, and metabolic variables). Methods: Following a randomized crossover design, 15 male cyclists (35 [9] y; peak oxygen uptake [VO2peak] 66.4 [6.8] mL·kg−1·min−1) performed a 20-minute cycling time trial (TT) preceded by no warm-up, a standard warm-up (10 min at 60% of VO2peak), or a warm-up that was intended to induce potentiation postactivation (PAP warm-up; 5 min at 60% of VO2peak followed by three 10-s all-out sprints). Study outcomes were jumping ability and heart-rate variability (both assessed at baseline and before the TT), TT performance (mean power output), and perceptual (rating of perceived exertion) and physiological (oxygen uptake, muscle oxygenation, heart-rate variability, blood lactate, and thigh skin temperature) responses during and after the TT. Results: Both standard and PAP warm-up (9.7% [4.7%] and 12.9% [6.5%], respectively, P < .001), but not no warm-up (−0.9% [4.8%], P = .074), increased jumping ability and decreased heart-rate variability (−7.9% [14.2%], P = .027; −20.3% [24.7%], P = .006; and −1.7% [10.5%], P = .366). Participants started the TT (minutes 0–3) at a higher power output and oxygen uptake after PAP warm-up compared with the other 2 protocols (P < .05), but no between-conditions differences were found overall for the remainder of outcomes (P > .05). Conclusions: Compared with no warm-up, warming up enhanced jumping performance and sympathetic modulation before the TT, and the inclusion of brief sprints resulted in a higher initial power output during the TT. However, no warm-up benefits were found for overall TT performance or for perceptual or physiological responses during the TT.

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Pedro L. Valenzuela, Jaime Gil-Cabrera, Eduardo Talavera, Lidia B. Alejo, Almudena Montalvo-Pérez, Cecilia Rincón-Castanedo, Iván Rodríguez-Hernández, Alejandro Lucia, and David Barranco-Gil

Purpose: To compare the effectiveness of resistance power training (RPT, training with the individualized load and repetitions that maximize power output) and cycling power training (CPT, short sprint training) in professional cyclists. Methods: The participants (20 [2] y, peak oxygen uptake 78.0 [4.4] mL·kg−1·min−1) were randomly assigned to perform CPT (n = 8) or RPT (n = 10) in addition to their usual training regime for 7 weeks (2 sessions/wk). The training loads were continuously registered using the session rating of perceived exertion. The outcomes included endurance performance (8-min time trial and incremental test), as well as measures of muscle strength/power (1-repetition maximum and mean maximum propulsive power on the squat, hip thrust, and lunge exercises) and body composition (assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry). Results: No between-group differences were found for training loads or for any outcome (P > .05). Both interventions resulted in increased time-trial performance, as well as in improvements in other endurance-related outcomes (ie, ventilatory threshold, respiratory compensation point; P < .05). A significant or quasi-significant increase (P = .068 and .047 for CPT and RPT, respectively) in bone mineral content was observed after both interventions. A significant reduction in fat mass (P = .017), along with a trend (P = .059) toward a reduced body mass, was observed after RPT, but not CPT (P = .076 for the group × time interaction effect). Significant benefits (P < .05) were also observed for most strength-related outcomes after RPT, but not CPT. Conclusion: CPT and RPT are both effective strategies for the improvement of endurance performance and bone health in professional cyclists, although the latter tends to result in greater improvements in body composition and muscle strength/power.

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David Barranco-Gil, Jaime Gil-Cabrera, Pedro L. Valenzuela, Lidia B. Alejo, Almudena Montalvo-Pérez, Eduardo Talavera, Susana Moral-González, and Alejandro Lucia

Purpose: The functional threshold power (FTP), which demarcates the transition from steady state to non-steady-state oxidative metabolism, is usually determined with a 20-minute cycling time trial that follows a standard ∼45-minute warm-up. This study aimed to determine if the standard warm-up inherent to FTP determination is actually necessary and how its modification or removal affects the relationship between FTP and the respiratory compensation point (RCP). Methods: A total of 15 male cyclists (age 35 [9] y, maximum oxygen uptake 66.4 [6.8] mL·kg−1·min−1) participated in this randomized, crossover study. Participants performed a ramp test for determination of RCP and maximum oxygen uptake. During subsequent visits, they performed a 20-minute time trial preceded by the “standard” warm-up that is typically performed before an FTP test (S-WU), a 10-minute warm-up at the power output (PO) corresponding to 60% of maximum oxygen uptake (60%-WU), or no warm-up (No-WU). FTP was computed as 95% of the mean PO attained during the time trial. Results: Although the FTP was correlated with the RCP independently of the warm-up (r = .89, .93, and .86 for No-WU, 60%-WU, and S-WU, respectively; all Ps < .001), the PO at RCP was higher than the FTP in all cases (bias ± 95% limits of agreement = 57 [24], 60 [23], and 57 [32] W for No-WU, 60%-WU, and S-WU, respectively; all Ps < .001 and effect size > 1.70). Conclusions: The FTP is highly correlated with the RCP but corresponds to a significantly lower PO, being these results independent of the warm-up performed (or even with no warm-up).

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Pedro L. Valenzuela, Almudena Montalvo-Perez, Lidia B. Alejo, Mario Castellanos, Jaime Gil-Cabrera, Eduardo Talavera, Alejandro Lucia, and David Barranco-Gil

Purpose : Some power meters are available in both bilateral and unilateral versions. However, despite the popularity of the latter, their validity remains unknown. We aimed to analyze the validity of a unilateral pedal power meter for estimating actual (“bilateral”) power output (PO). Methods: Thirty-three male cyclists were assessed at different POs (steady cycling at 100–500 W, as well as all-out sprints), pedaling cadences (70, 85, and 100 repetitions·min−1), and cycling positions (seated and standing). The PO estimated by a left-only power meter (Favero Assioma Uno) was compared with the actual PO computed by a bilateral power meter (Favero Assioma Duo), and the level of bilateral asymmetry (most- vs least-powerful leg) with the latter system was also computed. Results: Nonsignificant differences, high intraclass correlation coefficients (≥.90), and low coefficients of variation (consistently ≤5% except for low PO levels, ie, 5%–7% at 100 W) were found between Favero Assioma Uno and Favero Assioma Duo. However, although a strong intraclass correlation coefficient (.995) was found between both legs, asymmetry values of 4% to 6% were found for all conditions except when pedaling at the lowest PO (100 W), in which asymmetry increased up to 10% to 13%. Conclusions: Although cyclists tend to present some level of bilateral asymmetry during cycling (particularly at low PO), Favero Assioma Uno provides overall valid estimates of actual PO and is, therefore, an economical alternative to bilateral power meters. Caution is needed, however, when interpreting data at the individual level in cyclists with high levels of asymmetry.

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Manuel Mateo-March, Pedro L. Valenzuela, Xabier Muriel, Alexis Gandia-Soriano, Mikel Zabala, Alejandro Lucia, Jesús G. Pallares, and David Barranco-Gil

Purpose: The present study aimed to determine the influence of fatigue on the record power profile of professional male cyclists. We also assessed whether fatigue could differently affect cyclists of 2 competition categories. Methods: We analyzed the record power profile in 112 professional cyclists (n = 46 and n = 66 in the ProTeam [PT] and WorldTour [WT] category, respectively; age 29 [6] y, 8 [5] y experience in the professional category) during 2013–2021 (8 [5] seasons/cyclist). We analyzed their mean maximal power (MMP) values for efforts lasting 10 seconds to 120 minutes with no fatigue (after 0 kJ·kg−1) and with increasing levels of fatigue (after 15, 25, 35, and 45 kJ·kg−1). Results: A significant (P < .001) and progressive deterioration of all MMP values was observed from the lowest levels of fatigue assessed (ie, −1.6% to −3.0% decline after 15 kJ·kg−1, and −6.0% to −9.7% after 45 kJ·kg−1). Compared with WT, PT cyclists showed a greater decay of MMP values under fatigue conditions (P < .001), and these differences increased with accumulating levels of fatigue (decay of −1.8 to −2.9% [WT] with reference to 0 kJ·kg−1 vs −1.1% to −4.4% [PT] after 15 kJ·kg−1 and of −4.7% to −8.8% [WT] vs −7.6% to −11.6% [PT] after 45 kJ·kg−1). No consistent differences were found between WT and PT cyclists in MMP values assessed in nonfatigue conditions (after 0 kJ·kg−1), but WT cyclists attained significantly higher MMP values with accumulating levels of fatigue, particularly for long-duration efforts (≥5 min). Conclusions: Our findings highlight the importance of considering fatigue when assessing the record power profile of endurance athletes and support the ability to attenuate fatigue-induced decline in MMP values as a determinant of endurance performance.

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Pedro L. Valenzuela, Xabier Muriel, Teun van Erp, Manuel Mateo-March, Alexis Gandia-Soriano, Mikel Zabala, Robert P. Lamberts, Alejandro Lucia, David Barranco-Gil, and Jesús G. Pallarés

Purpose: To present normative data for the record power profile of male professional cyclists attending to team categories and riding typologies. Methods: Power output data registered from 4 professional teams during 8 years (N = 144 cyclists, 129,262 files, and 1062 total seasons [7 (5) per cyclist] corresponding to both training and competition sessions) were analyzed. Cyclists were categorized as ProTeam (n = 46) or WorldTour (n = 98) and as all-rounders (n = 65), time trialists (n = 11), climbers (n = 50), sprinters (n = 11), or general classification contenders (n = 7). The record power profile was computed as the highest maximum mean power (MMP) value attained for different durations (1 s to 240 min) in both relative (W·kg−1) and absolute units (W). Results: Significant differences between ProTeam and WorldTour were found for both relative (P = .002) and absolute MMP values (P = .006), with WT showing lower relative, but not absolute, MMP values at shorter durations (30–60 s). However, higher relative and absolute MMP values were recorded for very short- (1 s) and long-duration efforts (60 and 240 min for relative MMP values and ≥5 min for absolute ones). Differences were also found regarding cyclists’ typologies for both relative and absolute MMP values (P < .001 for both), with sprinters presenting the highest relative and absolute MMP values for short-duration efforts (5–30 s) and general classification contenders presenting the highest relative MMP values for longer efforts (1–240 min). Conclusions: The present results––obtained from the largest cohort of professional cyclists assessed to date—could be used to assess cyclists’ capabilities and indicate that the record power profile can differ between cyclists’ categories and typologies.